As Australia endures one of its worst flu seasons in more than a decade, questions are being raised about how the public can be better prepared and what can be done to protect the most vulnerable.
At least 170,000 influenza cases have been confirmed this season, almost two-and-a-half times more than in 2016. The federal health department logged 72 flu-related deaths by Thursday, including that of eight-year-old Rosie Andersen in Melbourne. Experts say Australia is on track for a record number of confirmed cases.
Sarah Hawthorn, from the regional town of Cobram in northern Victoria, remains in a critical condition in hospital after contracting the flu late in her pregnancy. After giving birth to a healthy boy, she was placed in an induced coma.
Despite tragic cases such as these, the spike in flu cases is a pattern that plays out globally every 10 to 15 years. The difficulty with influenza viruses is that different viruses circulate the population each year that may not be covered by current flu vaccines, and those viruses that are covered can mutate, a phenomenon known as viral drift, making the vaccinations against them less effective. Vaccines also remain effective for only one season.
Unlike other vaccines that are more than 95% effective at protecting against a specific disease when a full dose is administered – for example, the chickenpox and polio ones – the flu vaccine is, on average, only 40% protective, although this varies depending on the flu strain. By comparison, staying home from work when suffering the flu, hand-washing, and covering one’s mouth when coughing and sneezing protects against spreading the disease 68% of the time.
Leading infectious diseases expert Dr Peter Collignon has called for better identification of patients suffering bacterial infections secondary to the influenza virus.
Collignon, a professor of microbiology and a medical doctor, who has worked with the World Health Organisation and as a government adviser, says the rise in the number of cases could also be because laboratory tests to diagnose influenza are improving almost every year. But he says the current peak in cases should not come as a surprise.*
We hope that the UK does not receive the expected Flu crisis in 2017/ 2018.
Why not have us provide a preventive strike against this virus while you are shut down over christmas?
Shropshire Expert Cleaners
*Source from The Guardian Newspaper